In my previous post about frozen and fresh veggies, my friend Jill mentioned how irked she gets when her produce department pipes in the sound of thunder and rain over the loudspeakers whenever the misters are activated.
My local supermarket does the same. And now that she's mentioned it, that little ploy perturbs me as well. Particularly when I see some senior citizens scattering about, rushing to unfold their umbrellas and don their overcoats whenever the first clap of thunder roars over the PA system. I even saw one octogenarian, in an effort to keep her obviously just-styled hair from getting drenched, tear a plastic bag off the spool next to the green peppers and yank it down over her head. Fortunately, I was there to yank it back off when she started turning blue.
Why do supermarkets do this? Is it to make us think that these veggies are so fresh even the rain followed them inside? Is it a ploy to keep us from picking up the produce and squeezing it? (After all, who wants to squeeze anything in a thunderstorm, unless of course you're trying to squeeze your butt into a bus stop filled with thirteen other people who got there first?) Or perhaps it's an attempt to engage all of our senses in the shopping experience - thus making it more pleasurable?
I think it's the latter. One popular Florida supermarket chain even claimed the tag line: "Publix Market: Where Shopping Is a Pleasure." They plastered this motto on the front of their stores, on their shopping carts, and on their bags. Even the nametags on the bag boys proclaim it. Now I don't know about you, but I can think of at least a half-dozen deliciously pleasurable experiences right off the top of my head, and grocery shopping is not one of them.
But I imagine that in their desire to make shopping as pleasurable as, say, dining on a delicious gourmet meal, savoring a fine single malt scotch, or wild unbridled sex with your soul mate, supermarkets have chosen to engage all of our senses with the sounds of rumbling thunder and misty rain.
Of course, my question is: Why stop at the produce department? Why not have clucking poultry and the pungent smell of chicken poop piped in at the meat department? Or the smell of wet hay and cow manure in the dairy department? And think of how your bread-buying experience would be enhanced if all of the ladies behind the bakery counter were pleasantly plump, sported cheeks the color of rose petals, and spoke in a dialect that could only be described as rural Sicilian?
And how about the deli department? Imagine how authentic it would be if they piped in the sound of old lady Sussman berating the poor slob behind the counter because her order of sliced pastrami was 1/8 of an ounce off? Oh, wait; old lady Sussman already does that on a regular basis in my store. Never mind.
Hmm, now that I've thought some more about it, I'm convinced that the reason they pipe in the rain forest soundtrack is to engage all of our senses: to make a mundane, weekly chore, a pleasure.
And in a way it worked. I now count grocery shopping as a highly pleasurable experience, just a notch below dining on a delicious gourmet meal, savoring a fine single malt scotch, or wild unbridled sex with my soul mate. And also a notch below feeding the dog, changing a tire, and scratching an itch when no one is looking.
So here's to the pleasures of shopping. May all of us find in it a happy ending. But only when no one is looking.